The Ashes

Technology, Science and other news
April 10, 2009

British Spy Plane Snooping on Energy-Hog Citizens

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Filed under : General

The idea sounds like a good one off the bat, but is operating a spy plane to snoop on local citizens’ energy usage pushing the envelope?


The British are quite used to having their movements tracked by Big Brother. But spying –literally– on their energy habits is taking things to new heights.

The Broadland District Council in Norfolk has spent £30,000 (roughly $44,175) hiring a plane with a thermal imaging camera in order to track how much energy is being wasted in homes and businesses, according to the UK’s Daily Mail.

The thermal imaging technology will be used to produce a color-coded heat-loss map, and when an energy hogging structure is identified, the council will dispatch someone in order to educate the offender on how to better protect the environment by conserving energy.

The council’s head of environmental services, Andy Jarvis, said the original plan was to target businesses but it was realized the scope could be extended to include residential properties as well.

More than half of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the domestic sector, which includes property and transport.

“The project we put together was for a plane to go up on various nights flying strips of the district and taking pictures,” he said. “Through those images, a thermal image photograph can be created in which you can pick out individual properties which are losing a lot of heat.”

“We do a lot on domestic energy conservation already and realised it would be useful to see if any of the homes which were particularly hot were properties where people had not insulated their lofts.”

“We were also able to look at very cold properties and think we might have picked up people on low incomes who are not heating their homes because they cannot afford to.”

Critics are concerned, however, that the crackdown was just another example of local authorities extending their charter to poke their noses into every aspect of people’s lives.

“People are sick and tired of being heckled and spied on by local government and this council has shown an utter disregard for the man on the street,” said the head of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, Matthew Elliot. “We’re in a recession and you would have thought this council had better ways to spend £30,000.

“Taxpayers are already footing the bill for innumerable advertising campaigns at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet,” he said.

But Council chiefs were careful to point out that the data they uncover will not be misused and stress there is no intention to “name or shame” energy wasters.

Council leader Simon Woodbridge said the project would “effectively pay for itself within a few weeks in terms of the amounts of money we can help people to save.”

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